Friday, March 19, 2010


Back in the Eighties, I never watched SCARECROW AND MRS. KING (1983-1987). Even though I dug spies and adventure stories, and had enjoyed star Bruce Boxleitner in TRON and his short-lived BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE series (from the year before SCARECROW), as a teenager/young adult, I simply had no interest in watching some "old" housewife with kids as the female lead in such a show. In fact, I'd always thought of actress Kate Jackson as the somewhat plain Charlie's Angel that was just on the show to emphasize how beautiful Jacquelyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd were in contrast.

But you know, I wasn't really the audience for this series.

For nearly half the decade, SCARECROW AND MRS. KING chronicled the adventures of American secret agent Lee Stetson (great 80s name!), codename "Scarecrow," ('natch) and his untrained - but gutsy and spunky - divorcee partner, Amanda King, as they worked to preserve national security from KGB Commies and other nefarious organizations and individuals.

Back in the Sixties, the early episodes of the hit spy show THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. almost always had a pretty civilian woman - usually a housewife - caught up in the espionage caper of the week, and she had to help the heroic secret agent heroes complete that particular mission. The idea behind this was that the women watching at home would identify with these "innocent" characters, and enjoy fantasizing about what they'd do if they were swept off their feet by a handsome stranger and into a glamorous world of danger and adventure for a while. What the producers of SCARECROW did was simply take that formula and build their entire show on it, and instead of bringing in a new woman every week, they'd actually make that "identification character" the star.

And it must have worked, because the show ran four seasons, and was extremely popular among female viewers. Understandable, I guess, because, at least in the first season episodes just released by Warner Brothers on DVD, suburban single mom Mrs. King seems to be a lot smarter and more capable than Boxlietner's so-called professional spy. Scarecrow has a suspicious tendency to keep getting captured by bad guys and thus need rescuing by his civilian partner. He also seems to keep missing huge, sometimes obvious clues that Mrs. King always catches pretty easily.

The show itself is pretty standard Eighties escapist fare, with non-taxing plots, likable leads, familiar guest stars, lots of amusing fashion and hairstyling disasters, and a light, amiable tone. I do find the theme music to be insidiously annoying, though. Boxleitner is solid in his role, and Jackson is both more attractive and less irritating than I remembered. TV and B-movie veteran Beverly Garland (IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, NOT OF THIS EARTH), co-stars as Mrs. King's mom, Dotty.

Warner Brothers has brought the first season of SCARECROW AND MRS. KING to DVD in a perfectly satisfactory, if bare-bones, 5-disc, 21 episode set. The full-frame, 1.33:1 transfers are rock solid and in good shape for a nearly 30 year-old show. Audio is a clear, crisp Dolby Digital mono. There are no extra features.

If you are - or someone you know is - a fan of the show, Warners' DVD set is fine, reasonably-priced, and would make a worthy addition to your library.

BUY: Scarecrow and Mrs. King: The Complete First Season